What pregnancy and childbirth do to a young girl’s body

Last week, the story of a 10-year-old girl from Ohio who became pregnant after being raped made international headlines. Due to the Supreme Court’s decision to no longer protect the right to abortion in his state, the child had to travel to Indiana to have access to an abortion. Groups of “pro-life” activists then considered that the young girl should have carried her pregnancy to term.

It is in this context that the New York Times wished to recall the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth on the body of a child by giving the floor to health professionals who are unfortunately accustomed to this problem.

As Dr. Ashok Dyalchand, who has worked for more than forty years with pregnant teenagers in poor communities in India, explains, a young girl’s pelvis is still far too narrow for the passage of a fetus, so small as it is. “[Ces filles] have a long labor […] the fetus presses on the bladder and urethra, which sometimes causes pelvic inflammatory disease and rupture of the tissues between the vagina, bladder and rectum.”

Complications, morbidity and mortality are much higher in girls under the age of 15 than in those aged 16 to 19, although the latter have twice the mortality of women aged 20 and over. adds the specialist.

Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) also confirm this particularly high mortality rate. According to a report published in 2020, complications related to pregnancy and childbirth “are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 worldwide”.

“mental torture”

According to a study published in 2015 in the Journal of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, teenage pregnancies are also associated with a large number of pathologies: maternal anemia, infections, eclampsia, postpartum depression… Babies born to young Girls are also more often premature.

“In normal physiology, a 10-year-old child is not supposed to be pregnant. The fact is that she is a child and [qu’elle] cannot give birth to a child, she is not ready”defends Dr. Shershah Syed, gynecologist and specialist in maternal mortality in Pakistan. “And the mental torture that she will undergo, this is not measurable.”

For Marie Bass Gomez, midwife and nurse at the Bundung Maternal and Child Health Hospital in The Gambia, the finding is similar. “When a child arrives pregnant in our center, it is really traumatic for her”she says. “This environment is not made for her.”

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